March 9, 2012
MODERATOR: Opening statement from Coach, then go to questions for Draymond and Keith. Coach.
COACH IZZO: I thought Draymond didn't have one of his better games, even though his stats did, and I see why now, because he can't even keep clear of his water. But turnover.
You know, I thought actually, I thought we started off kind of sluggish and weren't very good defensively early. And then these two guys picked it up. I thought they both played outstanding. I thought we got a lot of Adreian Payne early, and after that 20 20, I thought we really started checking better.
But what did impress me today was our passing and our unselfishness for three fourths of that game. I thought it reared its ugly head a little bit at the end, but I thought we were very unselfish. And we had to get a lot of guys in, guys that haven't played because of the foul trouble that he had. (Austin) Thornton was sick again and he was struggling and both (Derrick) Nix and Payne were in foul trouble.
So all of a sudden, (Russell) Byrd comes in and he makes his shot, and, you know, we got some minutes for him. We got (Travis) Trice a few more minutes, which I was amazed that he was able to play after the ankle thing again on Wednesday. And yet a lot of work to do defensively now. But offensively, we really moved the ball and played pretty well.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes?
Q. Draymond, for you, when you went out with two with two fouls in the first half, the team seemed to really step it up for you. You've played great games before and didn't win. Watching you on the sidelines as they started to play when you went out, you became their biggest cheerleader. How important is it for this team that they step around you?
DRAYMOND GREEN: That's very important. I think Keith played a great game today, and I thought that was big for us the way you may look at his stats and say he only shot three for three. He made all three of his shots. And the big thing for me with him was six assists and only two turnovers, and that was really big. Plus I think he played a great forward lane. And when I went out the game, he really took the game over and got us some great things and that was really big for us.
So far as me going to the bench, I'm a big guy on history, and I just always remember back when Mateen Cleaves was injured and the one memory that sticks in my mind when they were down there beating North Carolina, the biggest cheerleader on the bench, and that kind of lifts his guys up, and that's what I tried to do for my guys as well.
Q. Keith, how much easier is your job when Travis is heathy and playing well like did he today?
KEITH APPLING: It's a lot easier. It gives me a break. I get to come off the bus, I can kind of coach him when I'm on floor. It makes my job a lot easier, posting and playing on the ball. All 30 minutes it hadn't changed, the other team's best player.
Q. Draymond, you probably won't play him a whole lot, but if you get Indiana tomorrow, can you talk about what it's like playing Cody Zeller, what issues he presents?
DRAYMOND GREEN: Cody's a great player. That's why he's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and that's why that team is where they're at. They still have the majority of the same guys, they just came and took that program to a completely different level. But at the end of day, we still have to go into this next game with open minds, knowing that it's not set in stone whether we're going to play Indiana. Wisconsin is a great team as well.
So it's going to be a brawl out there. We're just going to watch the game and get a good feel for both of them. It's not like we haven't played both of them twice, which is an advantage. Only had to play Iowa once, kind of get a better feel for them.
But if we do play Indiana, Cody, he went off on us his last time down there, and that will be something that we'll have to do a better job of, but when you're playing a great player like that, you just try to contain him. It's almost impossible to stop great players, but if you can contain him, you have a better chance.
Q. Draymond, can you talk a little bit about Adreian's performance today and his career high of 16 points.
DRAYMOND GREEN: It was a great performance for him. I was on the bench yelling at him because he only had one rebound the second half, and that's another step. We're trying to get him and Nix to take his rebound better. I think he did a great job tonight. I think I started off really slow and he carried the load for us, and then Keith, so that was pretty big for us.
But we know the potential that Adreian has and the things that he can do. It was just a matter of him going hard every second that he's on the floor. And today he did that and he came up with some huge rebounds for us, some huge buckets for us. But I think the one thing I was impressed with early is how unselfish he was. He finished the first half with I think 12 and 6, and he was very unselfish passing out of the post, so that was big for us.
Q. Draymond, just talk about bouncing back from those two losses and how important it is for you guys to start the month of March off this way.
DRAYMOND GREEN: It's very important because, until Coach reminded us before the game, I forgot we had two losses in a row before for the simple fact it's a brand new season, and I just completely forgot about it. And knowing that we were 0 0 and we had new life and can start all over again.
So to get a win coming out, like Coach said after the game, we're 1 0, now one step closer, but we gotta keep it going. And I think a part of that was when we ratcheted up on the defensive end, everything changed for us. And that's what's been good for us throughout the season.
If you look back at the last couple games that we did lose, first half against Ohio State, we defended very well and we had a 17 point lead. Indiana we didn't defend at all and we lost by 17.
So I think that's going to be the key to us, just keep on defending, staying consistent on the defensive end. And we didn't start out good today, and tomorrow if we don't start off good on the defensive end, it could cost us, so we just gotta make sure we keep on nailing that into the ground.
MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. Tom, with about four and a half minutes left in the first half, we were watching and Adreian started barking out and communicating with his teammates. And for him, you've talked so much about the things he has to do to improve. At one point you looked around, I think you looked at (Brandon Dawson), like, am I watching what I'm seeing? Will you talk about how big that was, please.
COACH IZZO: You read my mind. I said is that Adreian or an imposter. And Adreian did a great job. I thought at the end we were trying to play I have so many new guys now that I gotta get into that rotation. One thing is Adreian playing the floor so I can go bigger if I have to. One is those other guys understanding that sometimes it's time to build the lead and hold the lead.
All in all, I thought Adreian did a great job early. He blocked some shots, he got some rebounds, but he is communicating better on defense. We made a couple of adjustments on those ball screens right off the bat. First time out, they hit three 3s I think early. He adjusted to it. It was the most focused I've seen him, and he's had we sat there on the bench before the game, had two big, great practices, and we felt the number one key of the game was transition defense, especially with the bigs because they run so well. And the second one was rebounding because they had rebounded so well against Illinois, and those two things were big for us today.
Q. Coach, can you talk about coaching against Bruce Weber and just your thoughts on him leaving the league now?
COACH IZZO: How about if we do this, because I do have something to say about that. How about if we hold that until the end because I'd like to say some good things about my team and I'd like to get to some things that I think are not very good. I will come back to it, I promise.
Q. With Payne, did the pace of the game help him or is he just at the point where maybe he's able to play with the flow of the game more and not worry too much
COACH IZZO: You know, I think he's growing. I think all sophomores we're in such a screwed up society, where we try to speed everything up. And normal maturation process of kids is freshman and sophomore Years, most of them take to get there, and we're in the Kentucky mode now where every freshman and sophomore is supposed to be at a certain level.
And I do think we got to remember he was out more or less all last year. He lost the year because of the injury, and he's actually making some progress. He frustrates me sometimes because I think he has so much to give, and yet I've been really pleased that his practicing has been better. I think it's him maturing, not the pace of the game. I thought it was him maturing because he's getting stronger. He's able to bank more. He's got great skills in there. He can shoot left and right hand jump hooks. And the little jump hook on the baseline was a pretty play, so I think Adreian is starting to take some steps.
Q. Tom, two parts: Can you talk a little bit about what Trice brought. You mentioned the passing of the ball a little bit. And also (Brandon) Woods's defense on (Matt) Gatens.
COACH IZZO: I told Wood, I gave him a little star at the end, pasted it on his melon here. It was great because I think that was one thing he came in, everybody questioned his defense, and he's been a little up and down and we've missed I didn't think he did as good a job on (William) Buford but I'm not sure anybody could have covered him. He hit three or four big time shots. But we did a pretty good job on him.
And I don't think Gatens was quite as fresh as he was yesterday. So it was probably a combination. But it's nice to see Wood step up. He made some shots. He got a couple rebounds and he definitely defended better than he's defended probably in his life.
Q. Tom, talk about the number of guys you gotta work into the rotation. Russell Byrd, eight points tonight. What did you say to him? He air balls a three and then you guys have an exchange. What did you say to same at that moment?
COACH IZZO: Let me give you the PG version: What the hell you doing out there?
When a great shooter shots an air ball, it means it's a bad shot, he rushed it. Right now, Russell is like a kid learning to walk again. It's been a year and a half and he's we've all been waiting for him to come back. Unfortunately, it isn't going to happen this year like we'd hoped, but he is getting a little better. And if he sets his feet, then someday he's going to be great, great, you know, I'm hoping in the (Jon) Diebler mode, a guy that can really just stroke it if he sets his feet and gets himself ready.
But Russ' mind is going a thousand RPMs and his body is going about 10. So he's the coordination of it just isn't there yet. So when he's really set, he nails it. When he tries to rush it, I mean, you never see a great shooter take two foot air balls, missed by two feet.
And that's what I told him. I said, hey, it's your fault. You rushed it. You're not there yet. Frustrating for you, but that's the way it is.
Q. Zeller, has he met or exceeded your expectations and in your 25 years around the league, can you think of a guy with similar characteristics?
COACH IZZO: Well, I hate to say this. I do hate to comment on it. I think Wisconsin is awfully good, too. And this isn't a Zeller press conference, but I do love the kid. I think he's a great a kid. I think he has a variety of good skills offensively and defensively. I mean, I think he's what he is is an extremely solid player. When the date comes where there's some flash to his game, which will, it will be scary because right now, he's just like solid right hand, left hand. He can do things. He can shoot at the 15, he can make free throws, he can block shots. His defense is pretty good. Nothing bothers him. He does not get frustrated. You could probably punch him in the mouth or you could kiss him and it doesn't seem to affect him either way. And I'm sure some day he'll show a little more passion, and then he goes from very, very good to, you know, I think one of the better players that has ever played in our league if he sticks with it.
But I've been very impressed with Cody Zeller, very impressed with the job Tom has done with him, very impressed with the fact that some days he gets the ball and some days he doesn't. And again, nothing bothers him. Impressive.
Q. When you've had so many teams put it together in March, are there certain things you're always looking for this time of year? A look in the face, a look on the court? And if there are, are you seeing them right now with this team?
COACH IZZO: That's funny because I wasn't real happy with my team the last five, six minutes. And I was trying to explain to them in the locker room that there's a time when you put the second team in and you just let them go. But those guys are going to have to play tomorrow because I know where we're at.
So we're still very inexperienced, but when you gotta have it, you gotta have some toughness, we had some. And you gotta have a leader, and we got a great one. And you gotta know that whoever you play, it's not going to be any harder than North Carolina on an aircraft carrier with the President sitting there. So you got things to look back at and say, been there, done that.
And this team, it has I think the energy to make a little run. What worries me, Thornton still worries me, you know, coming around, and the loss of (Brandon Dawson) But Trice playing better today, I didn't know if he could play, guys, to be honest with you. So he surprised me twice, and that helps.
But you gotta have a go to guy, and we got one. We got one that can he's the only one that didn't make a three today. And right now he's been shooting the best of anybody. And he gets five assists, he can hurt you in a lot of different ways.
And I think also you usually got to be able defend and rebound in this tournament because you don't have many 90 point games in the NCAA Tournament or in this kind of tournament. And I think we do that pretty well most of the time. Although today, it let us down a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Do you want to address the Coach Weber situation?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, what was your question? I'm sick about it. I'm sick about it. And I'm sick about it and make sure you understand the reason why.
They beat us early in January and I beat Ohio State, and so I have three problems. Bruce is a friend of mine. He's been here since the Gene Keady days. He's done it the right way. He doesn't cheat. He man's up to his own responsibilities. Incredible, incredible person. I've recruited against him and lost and I've recruited against him and won, and hasn't changed things.
Number two, we have to understand that we blame kids for a lot of things. Kids have changed. Now we have administrators that are pulling the rug under ourselves in the middle of January when you're 16 and 6 or 7 or whatever it was, and we publicly talk about we'll make decisions at the end of the year.
I don't know what you guys think of kids because they haven't changed much, but if there's one place they've changed, they're a little more fragile. Not as many two parent homes. Not as good a school systems that are holding kids accountable and demanding. And so now we put that on those poor kids? And then we're surprised that they lose 9 out of 10?
I don't know who's beaten me the worst, probably Bo, but second on that list and I'm canonized as something some of the time.
I think it was ridiculous the way that thing was handled. And if I take abuse for that, I really don't care because I'm also the president of our association. This isn't about a friendship. This is about a profession.
And whenever you're in an organization, whether it be yours, whether it be mine, or whether it be a business one, the only way you can be successful is if, top to bottom, from the president to the trainer, we're all on the same page, and that in five, six months you can determine something.
I feel bad for the Illini nation because somebody's somebody pulled the rug out from under them. I feel bad for those players that have been there that, in my estimation, weren't given a fair chance back about the middle of January, whenever that famous statement was made.
But if you look at that team from that statement, it went directly down. And I feel worse for Bruce because we lost a good soldier. And yeah, friendship is some of it, but it's not all of it. We lost a good coach. We got a coach that beat me and my team more often than not, and I just I can't figure that out.
I can't figure out how you guys allow it. You guys are always figuring out the negatives of things. I can't figure out how you guys allow it.
And my wife and I shed a tear this morning over it, and it was half for Bruce and half for my profession.
But unless there's things and I will publicly state this that I don't know, but when I heard those comments back in January, it made me sick and I said there's a problem.
And so I hope the administrators that made those statements have a good game plan, but you guys lost a good guy, we lost a good guy, and I think I just hope he gets another job. And I'm going to do everything in my power to help him.
And I guess that's all I'll say because I'll probably put my foot in my mouth because if it was HBO, we could get at it right now and I'd really be fired up about it, because I just think I can't believe I can't believe nobody's looked at when those comments were made and where that team went.
I mean, this guy has won more games than anybody percentage than anybody that's been at the school. And he's done it the right way, and that's not easy to do. And it's not an easy job there. And when a big time recruit's father, I think watch what I say here comes out and makes statements, I mean, you better have a good idea the guy you're dealing with.
And I know this. I've known Bruce Weber since the day I was a grad assistant. There's not a classier, better guy and I don't want to just hear he's a nice guy better coach. He's had some things thrown at him, too, with injuries and guys leaving early and stuff like that.
So I'm sad, more sad for my profession than I am for Bruce because he's a man. I've seen him in his press conference. He'll man up and he'll get it done.
So sorry I had to get on a soapbox, but I'll leave it at that. And if there's any other questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Coach McCaffery will make an opening statement and then we'll go to questions for the student athletes.
COACH MCCAFFERY: We lost to a very good team today, a very good team who played really hard. I thought at the start of the game we came out the right way. I thought we had a good beginning, and then it got away from us there a little bit, and I thought we fought hard in the second half. But that's a team that's going to be playing for a long time.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Matt, now that the tournament here is wrapped up for you, what are your expectations? What are you hoping happens now moving forward for you guys?
MATT GATENS: For Iowa? You know, this year we'd love to continue playing, but we know we'll find out on Sunday. But the future of Iowa, I know I'm excited. It's in good hands. There's a lot of good young talent returning, and the guys, I'm proud of for fighting this whole year and stepping up in big spots, and there's some good talent coming in. So it's looking good, and I'm excited for it.
MODERATOR: Other questions?
Q. For the players, obviously, how much would you like to play a postseason game in one of the non NCAA tournaments?
MODERATOR: Matt, let's start with you, please.
MATT GATENS: Yeah, I think it would be great for the program to get an NIT bid and continue playing and fight for something. The young guys need it. More practices, more games, it's great for the program, and we'll find out.
ROY DEVYN MARBLE: I think it would mean a lot to the team and the program. Guys like Matt haven't had a chance to play in the postseason yet. Of course we wanted to play for them, so hopefully we do get chosen.
Q. Hey, Dev, you really get a sense in the locker room that you guys were playing for Matt and the other seniors. I know that's usually the case when you have seniors. But what was that like trying to get another game for the guy next to you.
ROY DEVYN MARBLE: It means a lot, especially a guy that's just done so much for us this year. He's carried us, he's led us, he's done everything for the team, and to see him upset and to feel that we came up short for him, it was just it was heartbreaking to the whole team.
And when you have a guy like Matt who you all love, you just want to see him have as much success as possible here. And we all know we have to make the most of our opportunities, especially guys like me, Aaron White and Melsahn who know I mean, we got two years and three years left, but you don't ever want to just give up opportunities like we have had this year.
And that's one thing I've learned. You always want to make the most of your opportunities because you never know when you might not make a postseason or lose and win this game.
Q. For both Dev and Matt, toughness was an issue up in East Lansing a couple months ago, but it looked like early on especially you made that a focal point not to allow you to be the punk team or whatever out on the court. Was that a focal point going into this game?
ROY DEVYN MARBLE: Yeah, it was. We felt like when we went to East Lansing they outplayed us, they out toughed us and really just were more physical. And so that was a key thing. When we came into today's game we wanted to make sure that we came out and they knew that it wasn't going to be easy.
Unfortunately, they out rebounded us. And I don't think that was the lack of us not being tough. It was just it felt like they were just quicker to the ball, they kind of out jumped us and we weren't able to adjust. And when you got guys like Draymond and Adreian Payne who are excellent rebounders, it's difficult.
MODERATOR: Matt, your thoughts, please.
MATT GATENS: Yeah, it's obviously a point of us just coming in after what happened up there, and it was a quick turnaround from yesterday, didn't have a ton of time trying to prepare for it or go through drills on the court.
But we knew it was going to be a battle, especially on the boards, because that's what they're known for. I'm proud of the guys the way they came out and fought right from the start. We were battling. It's tough for 40 minutes, but I thought we gave it our all, but it's a tough team.
MODERATOR: Anything else for the student athletes before I let them go?
Okay, fellas. Thank you very much.
Questions for Coach McCaffery.
Q. Coach, twice this season Michigan State has I think scored more than 90 points on you. Between that first game and this game what adjustments defensively were you trying to make?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, the biggest problem we had up there is we turned the ball over 21 times and they ran it down our throat. Today we turned it over nine and didn't give them as many transition opportunities.
At half court they were pounding it inside. We went from man to zone and back to man, back to zone. There's not much else you can do. We pressed a little bit. But we give up a lot of size to them.
Q. Coach, without the benefit of knowing what the future is with the postseason here, can you just speak to what Matt Gatens has done, his impact on this program going forward.
COACH MCCAFFERY: I don't know that I've had a better captain I've had some really good ones, and that's an amazing statement from me not only in terms of the example that he set from a work ethic standpoint and how he conducts himself off the floor and how he pays attention to everything that we do in terms of game planning and his performance in the classroom. All of those things combined just are an example of his tremendous character.
But then on top of it he raised his game to a completely different level to where he was virtually unstoppable and has played himself. Whereas at one point in time I think most people respected what he'd accomplished, I think now you look at him differently and say, wait a minute, this guy has clearly got NBA potential. He's been invited to Portsmouth, and he'll go down there. I'm sure he'll play well. He's in the best shape of his life, shooting the ball extremely well, and I hope he plays for a long time.
Q. Speaking of Matt, he didn't take a shot for a long time in the game. It looked like they were really being physical with him, trying to keep him away from the ball. What kind of adjustments did you make? Was Zach a focal point at that point or just trying to find whoever was open?
COACH MCCAFFERY: You know, the only thing you can do, you can run motion or you can set him up or you can run plays for other people. Zach's threes early just came out of motion. We were running things in the second half for Josh and for Marble for Melsahn.
He's always going to be a focal point of what we're trying to do. We may go away from him for a while, use him as a screener and try to get other people involved, but pretty much we're trying to get him free the entire time.
Q. Fran, I think it was like 22 22 and Matt hadn't attempted a shot yet, and then the bottom fell out pretty fast. They started hitting shots. But they got four quick baskets on offensive rebounds. Is that just a testimony to their size or was it a box out?
COACH MCCAFFERY: That was disappointing. There's no question about that. I mean, they're very good at it. They're plus-nine, I think, on the glass. I think that's best in the country.
They're much bigger than we are. I would like to have seen us put a body on somebody there. I haven't seen the film so I don't know exactly what happened and where we broke down, but we were getting some stops in a tight game. But it really does make a big difference when they're getting put backs. And it improved their confidence, and I think they ultimately ended up shooting the ball better as a result of put backs, and that's what we were trying to avoid.
Q. Your freshmen had pretty good performances. Josh scored 20 points, Aaron had a pretty good, Olaseni came in off the bench. Do you think the future is bright for those three?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Oh, they're going to be tremendous. They're already tremendous. Gabe's got a little further to go. He didn't play as much as the other two guys. But they certainly proved that they're certainly among Aaron is certainly among the best players in this league, Josh among the best freshmen. Josh has put some numbers up in some difficult environments, and he's just going to keep getting better, and so is Aaron.
Q. Coach, do you ever foresee a time maybe in the future where the team's not playing as hard as you want them to play and you might pull out a Matt Gatens tape and show them the guys running a hundred miles through 8 million screens trying to get open and never stopping?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I think that's a great teaching point. We've done that over the years. Every coach. When I say we, it's any coach. If you have somebody that's special, you'll go back and show somebody at that same position, like you think you're working hard, you think you're trying to get open, you think you're running off screens correctly. Let me show you somebody who did it perfectly.
And it would be a teaching situation completely. And we'll do it. And you'll do it for guys in different positions based on how hard they play. And we did it this year with Melsahn when he was struggling. We showed him tapes of himself from last year: This is what you were doing last year. When he was playing with energy like did he today in the second half, he impacts the game.
Thank you, Coach.
COACH MCCAFFERY: Thank you.